November 24th, 2005

krazy koati

Everything for us to see the ultimate society

Today was a chance to take in the Asian Civilisations Museum, which is largely what the name implies. There's a natural emphasis on Singapore, of course. The gallery about the Singapore River begins with a marvelous panel explaining that if it were not for the Singapore River and the supply of fresh water, then Singapore the city might not have had such a useful harbor and therefore, ultimately, the Asian Civilisations Museum as we know it might not have existed. This is true but it is a self-centered way to start off the museum.

And it is a fascinating museum, if you've got a taste for history, much of it really archaeology pieced together because the local cultures collapsed rather completely several times, leaving only vague oral traditions and rocks with unrecognizable writing as lasting records, and the rocks were blown up by 19th century British engineers, apparently to spite us. And I learned that while it is possible to make jokes about the Wallace Line, they will fall flat if the person to whom you are making jokes has only vaguely heard of a Wallace Line. (The maps of the area naturally include a good swath of that line.)

While there's understandably a focus on Southeast Asia, there's strong representation of China, India, and ``native peoples'' long since absorbed into bigger cultures, and the Buddhist, Taoist, and Islamic religions and cultures. There's also an array of ``Interactive Guides'', touchpad-activated recordings of people narrating the exhibits. Some of them were Out of Order, and others we just didn't touch; the result is the panels went to a sort of screensaver mode, with the narrators looking around uncomfortably, shuffling around, fiddling with a blanket, that sort of thing. As we were reading one exhibit the power went out, resetting all the computers and interactive displays, setting off all manner of beeping things, and making a museum attendant wander through with a concerned look on his face and telling us we weren't responsible. But I think we all know better.

Trivia: The brachypodosaurus, deinonychus, saltopus, and velocipes are all dinosaurs named for feet. Source: The Uncyclopedia, Gideon Haigh.

Currently Reading: Spaceling, Doris Piserchia.